(CNSNews.com) – Hillary Clinton has experience, but it’s not the kind of experience Americans can afford to have for another four years.
That was a message Donald Trump seemed keen to underline as the two met in their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York on Monday night.
Facing a rival with a hefty political resume, the Republican candidate called into question how successful a secretary of state she had been, citing the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), the Iran nuclear deal, and the serious instability that has plagued Libya since 2011.
After Clinton won applause by listing achievements (in response to his doubting her “stamina”) including travel to 112 countries, negotiating peace deals, and spending “11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee,” Trump conceded that she does have experience.
“Hillary has experience, but it’s bad experience,” he said.
“We have made so many bad deals during the last – so she’s got experience. I agree. But it’s bad, bad experience. Whether it’s the Iran deal you’re so in love with where we gave them $150 billion back. Whether it’s the Iran deal, whether it’s anything you can name – you almost can’t name a good deal.
“I agree – she’s got experience, but it’s bad experience," he said. “And this country can’t afford to have another four years of that kind of experience.”
Trump derided the Iran nuclear agreement – which eased sanctions and released tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities – as “one of the great giveaways of all time.”
He also implied that the nuclear deal had thrown a lifeline to an Iran crippled by sanctions, in the process strengthening its position in the region.
“That’s another beauty, where you have a country that was ready to fall, they were doing so badly,” he said. “They were choking on the sanctions, and now they’re probably going to be a major power at some point, the way they’re going.”
Trump accused Clinton, and President Obama, of facilitating the growth of ISIS by creating a “vacuum” in Iraq as a result of leaving no U.S. troops there after the negotiated withdrawal at the end of 2011.
ISIS, he said, “wouldn’t have even been formed if they left some troops behind, like 10,000 or maybe something more than that.”
Trump said ISIS had been “a little infant” at the time, but was now present in dozens of countries.
“Now you're talking about taking out ISIS? But you were there, and you were secretary of state when it was a little infant,” he said. “Now it’s in over 30 countries, and you’re going to stop them? I don’t think so.”
As for the administration’s policy in Libya, Trump simply called it “another one of her disasters.”
In response to the attacks, Clinton defended the Iran nuclear deal, saying it had put a “lid” on the Iranians’ nuclear program.
What would Trump have done, she asked. “Would he have started a war? Would he have bombed Iran?”
“If he’s going to criticize a deal that has been very successful in giving us access to Iranian facilities that we never had before, then he should tell us what his alternative would be.”
Clinton noted that the Iraq troop withdrawal timetable had been negotiated by President George W. Bush, not Obama.
“The only way that American troops could have stayed in Iraq is to get an agreement from the then-Iraqi government that would have protected our troops,” she said. “And the Iraqi government would not give that.”
(Under a security agreement signed by the Bush administration in late 2008, the end of 2011 was set as the deadline for the final troop pullout. But in 2011 the Obama administration negotiated to retain a 3,000-5,000-strong training and counterterrorism force in the country beyond that date. Disputes over legal protections for U.S. troops eventually scuppered the talks. Al-Qaeda in Iraq regrouped and subsequently morphed into ISIS.)
Clinton’s response to Trump’s Libya comment was brief. She claimed that he had “actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya and urged that [Muammar] Gaddafi be taken out, after actually doing some business with him one time.”
Trump did not respond to those remarks. Last June he told CBS that he had supported intervention in Libya, but that the way it was handled was “a disaster.” He also recalled that he had made a lot of money when Gaddafi needed a place to pitch his tent in New York during a United Nations visit in 2009. “He paid me a fortune, never got to stay there,” Trump said, dismissing the episode as “sort of a big joke.”